Justice Department Releases Regulations for Expanded DNA Collection

By Laura Spadanuta, Assistant Editor

The U.S. Department of Justice has released regulations for the expansion of DNA collection for the federal DNA database.  The regulations, authorized by Congress in a 2006 law, expand federal agency DNA collection from persons who have been convicted of a federal offense to anyone arrested under federal authority and illegal immigrants in federal detention.

According to the New York Times, there is concern about the ability of federal laboratories to handle the increased testing:

For the new effort to succeed, the samples, most collected by swabbing an inside cheek, have to be entered into the DNA database of the F.B.I.

A spokeswoman for the bureau’s laboratory, Ann Todd, said it already had a backlog of 225,000 samples to be processed, a more complex procedure than entering fingerprints.

If Justice Department estimates are accurate, work at the laboratory would increase twelvefold, Ms. Todd said.

No additional money was provided for the laboratory when Congress authorized the new collection program in 2006.

The new regulations allow federal agencies to forego the sample collection if that would "tax their resources," which clouds the effectiveness of the program, according to the Times.

The expanded DNA collection is made possible by an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, signed into law in 2006.  According to the Times, a goal is to make DNA collection as routine as fingerprinting.  Some crime victims advocates and women's groups say the collection "will help law enforcement identify sexual predators and also detect dangerous criminals among illegal immigrants."

The expanded DNA collection has its share of detractors, such as the ACLU. 

However, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), a supporter of the expanded sampling, applauded the new regulations in a statement

and said they could have prevented attacks if implemented earlier. The press release from his office states:

Kyl noted that if these regulations had been enacted earlier, Arizona police would have been able to stop Santana Aceves, the so-called “Chandler rapist,” earlier in his crime spree. Aceves was arrested in January of this year and linked by DNA to half a dozen sexual assaults of young girls that were committed in the Chandler area in 2006 and 2007. Aceves was present in the United States illegally and had been deported as recently as 2003. Had his DNA been collected and analyzed at that time, police would have identified him after the first rape that he committed in 2006, preventing at least three or four subsequent sexual assaults.


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